Indoor Garden (How-To)

The concept of gardening and farming has been around for ages, and with all of the pesticides on fruit and vegetables these days it is hard to stay away from the chemicals and eat organically. However, with organic prices up so high it's hard to afford the healthy foods you may want. That is why many people choose to garden. "But gardening is only a seasonal things" you may be thinking. That might be true, but you can have your veggies and eat them too if you use an indoor garden.

Indoor gardens are a great way to receive produce and herbs year round right from your kitchen. It is a cost efficient option that doesn't take much effort once it's set up.

The are two different ways to garden indoors. The first one is Container Gardening, and the second is Hydroponic Gardening. It is important to do your research to decide on the best technique for you. Once you have decided on the type of garden you'd like to have, you can begin piecing it together. Here's how to do it:

1. Choose the right space

A successful indoor garden relies heavily on the area of house it is placed. When choosing a space for your indoor garden it is important to choose a space that has a lot of windows (preferably facing east to west), warm in temperature (not a garage or attic), and away from a vent or fan.

2.  Invest in temperature control

In order to increase the chances of a successful garden you need to invest in items that will allow you to control the plants’ environment. There are three things you want to control for your garden: 1. air temperature, 2. water frequency, and 3. soil conditions. To control these elements you’ll probably end up buying soil heat mats, a drip system, and a lighting system. The heat mats will keep the soil temperature between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (the average temp plants need to survive), while the drip and lighting systems will ensure the plants receive enough water and sunlight.

3. Choose your plants

This is where the fun part comes in! You can choose from a range of plants to grow indoors. While some plants flourish indoors, others struggle, so its good to now which plants are right for your garden. Here is a list of plants that work great growing indoors:

Lettuce, beans, peas, mushrooms, strawberries and other fruits, basil, bay, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.

4. Select your containers/hydroponic system

When planting a container garden you’ll want to use container twice the size of the root ball if your transplanting the plants. You should choose containers that have holes in the bottom of them to allow for drainage or you can drill holes in them yourself. Plastic containers hold moisture the best, however you can use terra cotta pots. Try using old coffee cans or 1 liter plastic bottles as a way to recycle while planting. If using a wood container try using one made of redwood or cedar because they are rot resistant. Lastly, be careful not to use any containers that have been treated with chemicals.

When searching for a hydroponic system it is important to remember that you don't need a larger shelving unit and lots of supplies. The system can work just fine with plastic bottles and a window with sunlight. If you are looking for something a little bigger you can also invest in large tubs for planting a lot of the same plant.

5. Prepare soil/containers

Instead of grabbing random soil from outside, you’ll want to create your own potting mix to ensure the right amount of nutrients goes into your plants. You’ll need to mix 1 part coir peat, 1 part vermiculite, and 2 parts compost. These can be found at any garden center. Make sure you follow the directions on the bags.

When creating a hydroponic system you’ll want to use hydroponic substrate rather than potting soil for your containers. Substrates for hydroponics include expanded clay, lava rocks, coco coir, and peat moss. Be sure to speed up your water pumps after drilling holes into the containers. They container should be filling with water while the pump is going and draining between cycles. To avoid overflowing you can install an overflow drain in your containers.

6. Set up your system

You can use the space your selected early for a container garden, or use shelves for a larger garden. You’ll want to add in temperature control tools like the heating mats (under the containers), fluorescent lights, and a drip system. It may be wise for you to install timers your for system so you don't always need to control it on your own. Make sure to group your plants according to how much light exposure they need.

For a hydroponic system you’ll want to put your water tank on the bottom shelf (elevated a few inches above the floor), and stack the plant containers on the shelves above. Then set up your water pump system. Hang fluorescent lights above the plants and add a timer to control the elements. If you purchased a commercial hydroponic system simply follow the direction on the box.

7. Maintain your plants

Now you’ll only need to maintain your plants. Ensure they are getting enough sunlight and water while the soil does not drop below 70 degrees. Transplant them when they become too large and watch for signs of diseases or pests on your plants. Incorporate compost or fertilizer into your soil every few months or dose liquid fertilizer into your drip system ever few weeks.

For a hydroponic system you’ll test your water nutrients weekly and replace he hydroponic water occasionally.